While I am on vacation this week, I’d like to share this powerful reflection from my colleague in ministry, the Reverend Julie Gruber Delezenne of First Presbyterian Church in Warren, MI. She has also graciously offered to stream their Wednesday evening prayer service to our page this week (it is an immense blessing to be able to have a network of peers who have been so quick to offer help, resources, and coverage during this season of digital ministry). Pastor Julie had been selected to travel to Baltimore last month to represent the Presbytery of Detroit at General Assembly, the national gathering of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that meets every other year to make decisions for the denomination. Obviously, those plans changed, and so she had the unique experience of representing our Presbytery from her computer.
Our national Church believes that we are called to speak for justice in every generation and to actively engage in loving God’s children by creating a more equal and peaceful society. As part of that call, the General Assembly spent eight minutes and forty-six seconds in silence reflecting on the eight minutes and forty-six that George Floyd spent suffocating with a knee on his neck.
Here is Pastor Julie’s takeaway from the experience:
8 minutes and 46 seconds.
It is a long time to sit in silence. 750 of us did so over Zoom [last month] and even more over the live stream, as the 224th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) reflected, prayed, mourned, lamented, repented together as a body.
8 minutes and 46 seconds.
It is a long time to sit in silence.
It is an even longer time to be held to the ground knowing that you are going to die.
As Christians, who worship One who died- at the hands of the state- on a cross, we cannot look away.
As a predominantly white church in a predominantly white denomination, if we cannot see the face of Jesus in George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other Black siblings who have been killed, we are missing the call of Jesus, we are failing to live in the way, the truth, and the life.
It is also, not just enough to see, but also consider and take some steps to walk in the Way. And this is hard. For me, as a white Presbyterian woman, I feel this keenly as I wade into discussions and actions around racism in our country. I worry about making mistakes as I talk with Black friends and colleagues. I try to be aware enough to lower my defences when I do make mistakes and am confronted with them, so I can learn to be and do better. I struggle with the racist thoughts that bubble up in me from decades of being shaped by the culture and society around me. I read history that I was never taught in school. I try my best to listen more than speak when in meetings with colleagues who are people of color.
The grace I experience walking this Way of Jesus is immense, though. It is more than I deserve. It is not what I have earned. It is GRACE.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Julie (Commissioner to the 224th General Assembly)